SEATTLE, Washington — Beyond canceled proms, sports games and graduation ceremonies, COVID-19 has thrown billions of people into profound uncertainty and anxiety. With the economy in freefall, business has slowed to a sluggish rate, unemployment has skyrocketed, and financial insecurity is claiming thousands of victims every day. Over the course of the pandemic, the United States Government has authorized nearly $3 trillion in COVID-19 relief funding to bolster healthcare and abate widespread chaos in the country. Though these supplemental packages have eased domestic struggles, the U.S. has neglected to lead efforts against the spread of the virus abroad. In fact, less than 0.5% of the last multibillion-dollar stimulus was reserved for international relief, depriving debilitated nations of vital resources. Foreseeing the dire consequences of such inaction, The Borgen Project is urging Congress to commit at least $20 billion to the International Affairs Budget to fight COVID-19. Not only can the U.S. Government afford to fund global COVID-19 relief; it cannot afford not to.
Why $20 Billion?
As part of its advocacy efforts, The Borgen Project is lobbying Congress to authorize an emergency supplemental package of at least $20 billion to the International Affairs Budget to fund global COVID-19 relief. But, what would the money actually do?
The package would strengthen various USAID programs and international operations against the virus and its economic effects. The Borgen Project has condensed the funding request into three primary goals:
Fighting Disease: The package will boost healthcare resources by funding organizations such as Gavi, The Vaccine Alliance and by jumpstarting a Global Health Security Challenge Fund to develop better health infrastructure in poor countries.
Economic and Humanitarian Assistance: The emergency supplemental will direct funds to anti-hunger organizations to fight rising food insecurity as unemployment and economic hardship continue to escalate.
The United States Abroad: The package will also provide for the repatriation of U.S. citizens stuck in other countries and aid in the protection of U.S. embassies and international operations.
The $20 billion supplemental package would comprehensively address some of the greatest challenges that COVID-19 poses to the U.S. and the world at large, at last helping to ease the arduous challenges that the outbreak has caused.
Global COVID-19 Relief = Domestic COVID-19 Relief
The stimulus package would deliver much-needed aid to developing countries unequipped to handle the pandemic. Yet, as the U.S. struggles to maintain stability itself due to the viral burden, many wonder, “Why should the U.S. help other countries when it already has so many cases at home?”
The short answer is because global COVID-19 relief equals domestic COVID-19 relief. The COVID-19 pandemic is one of the few calamities in history that is truly global. Ignorant of borders and laws, COVID-19’s irreverence to crucial social institutions confounds traditional crisis response and transcends a purely domestic plan of attack. In today’s interconnected world, the onset of COVID-19 abroad acutely impacts the United States.
Fortunately, the U.S. can in fact afford the seemingly gargantuan funding request. To put it in perspective, $20 billion comprises a mere 2.7% of the military budget for 2020. Moreover, the $20 billion package is not merely a philanthropic handout, it is a lucrative investment in the future.
4 Reasons Why the US Must Act Take Action
Rising Poverty: COVID-19 has resulted in higher unemployment, increased food insecurity and limited access to healthcare services around the world. According to the United Nations, these formidable side effects are destroying years of anti-poverty advancements. The number of people living in extreme poverty is expected to increase by 71 million within the year 2020 and 1.6 billion people are enduring significant reductions in income. Rising poverty brings with it significant development challenges such as worsening maternal and child health, poor sanitation and declining education. As poverty reduction efforts regress, the pandemic threatens to hamper the accomplishment of the 17 U.N. Sustainable Development Goals.
U.S. Jobs: As financial uncertainty grips millions worldwide, the U.S. has seen a massive drop in demand, with overall exports decreasing by 16% since 2019. Some profitable sectors have experienced an even greater slump as earnings from tourism have been cut in half and revenue from the aircraft and vehicle industry has fallen by 30 – 40%. Already, COVID-19 has caused one of the worst recessions in U.S. history and millions of U.S. citizens are bearing the brunt of the pandemic as they grapple with unemployment and loss of income. If global poverty rises unimpeded, the U.S. may lose essential markets in developing countries and millions of export-related jobs will be eliminated.
National Security: Health crises and economic downturn have bred widespread civil unrest and political instability. Such discontent over the U.S. response to the virus could erupt into violence or even rebellion. This matters to the United States because volatile nations abroad inhibit economic rehabilitation and can cause precarious demographic shifts. Most alarming, however, is the fact that where instability invades, extremism often follows. The Middle East is a case in point. As the pandemic has weakened Iraq’s military, ISIS-related violence has multiplied.
International Leadership: As the U.S. grapples with its domestic struggles, China, through its strategic diplomatic efforts, is working to supplant the United States as a global leader. In April, CBS News reported that China’s provision of medical equipment, professionals and guidance, created a perception of China as a global savior, an image that will only grow brighter if the U.S. does not take initiative to provide global COVID-19 relief. To the extent that China obtains this influence, this will be to China’s economic advantage. If China claims a position of supremacy, it could be better positioned to win the U.S.-China trade war, which is not in U.S. interests.
The Borgen Project is urging Congress to give $20 billion in international aid to combat COVID-19, a move that would be mutually beneficial to the U.S. and the rest of the world. Even as the U.S. faces considerable challenges within its own borders, it must not ignore the plight of those abroad. Thousands of people have died and millions more are tragically sick. Compounding this suffering, millions of people have lost their incomes and government debts around the world have reached dizzying heights.
Perhaps the greatest deficit today, however, is that of hope. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, optimism is easily dampened and often even drained. The United States has the opportunity to invest in global COVID-19 relief, an act of compassion that will render hope both inside and outside of borders.
– Rosalind Coats